Xinhua Headlines: 10 years on, FTZs set sail on new voyage as China vows to open wider

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 29, 2023
Adjust font size:

SHANGHAI, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Friday marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of China's first pilot free trade zone in Shanghai's Pudong New Area.

Since its inauguration, the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (hereafter shortened to Shanghai FTZ) has achieved innumerous firsts and opened a new chapter in China's reform and opening-up.

Over the past decade, Shanghai FTZ has grown over threefold to 120.72 square km from its original 28.78-square-km plot, attracting 84,000 new enterprises by the end of 2022, 2.35 times the number of enterprises established in the 20 years before the zone's establishment, according to a white paper released last week.

FROM 1 to 21

When lined out a decade ago, one of Shanghai FTZ's major missions was to trial transformative reforms in government functions, the financial system, trade services, foreign investment and taxation, and pilot policies that could later be applied across the country.

Many epoch-making practices, such as the single-window platform and the free trade account, have helped the country promote higher-level opening-up.

In sharp contrast to ten years ago, when a seemingly never-ending crowd was always present at the government affairs service center in Pudong's Waigaoqiao, Qian Kai, who works at the center, now rarely sees a face.

"Most of the services we handle have all gone paperless and can be done with a click on a device," said Qian.

According to the white paper, the single-window platform has helped cut the overall customs clearance time in Shanghai from more than 200 hours to about 50 hours.

The negative list for foreign investment, in particular, has had a profound impact on widening market access for foreign investment. Spawned right in the Shanghai FTZ in 2013, it was soon extended to all FTZs and, subsequently, the whole country. Over time, the number of items on the list has undergone seven rounds of reduction, shortening to 27 from 190.

Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory, a flagship project in the Lingang new area of the Shanghai FTZ, has constantly set new industry records and manufactured over 2 million vehicles within less than four years.

"The efficient operation of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory is supported by the high-quality and open business environment in the Lingang new area of Shanghai FTZ," noted Tao Lin, vice president of Tesla.

Today, China has 21 FTZs plus Hainan Free Trade Port, which act as testing beds for China to advance reform and opening-up.

From these FTZs, more than 300 institutional innovations were made and later replicated and promoted nationwide, and about half of the innovations were born or first carried out in Shanghai.

The FTZs leverage on regional edges and existing national strategies and have exhibited obvious superimposing effects.

In border regions such as Guangxi and Yunnan, the FTZs boost connectivity with the ASEAN countries and act as important boosters for Belt and Road cooperation.

Taking advantage of the booming digital economy and advanced R&D and manufacturing capabilities, FTZs in the Yangtze River Delta have greatly sped up innovation and regional integration.

The southern island province of Hainan is now considered a shopping paradise as efforts to build it into a globally influential and high-level free trade port continue apace.

In 2022, the 21 FTZs saw exports and imports rise 14.5 percent year on year to 7.5 trillion yuan (about 1 trillion U.S. dollars), accounting for 17.8 percent of the country's total. The utilized foreign investment in FTZs exceeded 220 billion yuan, making up 18.1 percent of the total.

The 21 FTZs continued to see a steady increase in foreign investment in the first half of 2023. "Covering less than four thousandths of the country's land area, the FTZs attracted 18.4 percent of foreign investment in China in the first half of 2023," said Yang Tao, an official with the Ministry of Commerce.


Today's China is the world's second-largest economy, the largest trading nation in terms of goods as well as a major magnet for global investors.

As a beneficiary of free trade, China has been a committed advocate of opening-up and has vowed to open wider, in which the FTZs continue to play a leading role.

A circular released by the State Council in June specified that reforms will be further pushed in some eligible FTZs and Hainan Free Trade Port to align with high-standard international economic and trade rules amid efforts to boost institutional opening-up.

Efforts will also be made to facilitate service trade, such as allowing foreign financial institutions in the pilot areas to provide similar services as their Chinese counterparts.

"We will work to rationally reduce the negative list of foreign investment in pilot FTZs, and at the same time, promote the introduction of a negative list for cross-border trade in services, and lead the country to continue to expand opening-up," said Sheng Qiuping, China's vice minister of commerce, at a press conference Wednesday.

In addition, amid rising anti-globalization and trade protectionism, China has taken proactive approaches to share its dividends from free trade with the rest of the world by spearheading initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and pushing for the high-quality implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, all with an ultimate aim to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Lauding China's huge economic success over the past decade through opening-up, Dilma Rousseff, president of the New Development Bank, referred to the story of Shanghai FTZ as a step with profound significance.

"The Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone represents a bold and pioneering initiative," said Rousseff. By maintaining the growth of foreign trade-related activities and expanding reforms to strengthen the financial and high-tech industries, Chinese authorities and local authorities in Shanghai are once again elevating the process of economic transformation and modernization, according to Rousseff.

"Sustaining the momentum of modernization requires the consistency of innovative policies in harmony with a long-term structural vision. This is precisely what the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone achieves by expanding export policies, trade growth, services, finance, and technology," Rousseff added. Enditem

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from